Home Is Where Books Are!

I didn’t realise the importance of my books until I moved to England. I’ve always thought of myself as someone who doesn’t come across as a book person. I wasn’t a reader at all, as a child, although I had a sister who was an obsessive reader even at a young age. I picked up reading in my adult life, to pass my travel time on the bus, and it stayed. Of course.

Cut to our move to this country 4 months ago and while packing, I quickly realised that I couldn’t bring all of my books. We were moving our world across the seas and yet, I couldn’t bring them with me. I left them safely with a close friend, who is a book lover herself. A month after our move, I was sitting on a Sunday evening, looking at the new adopted living room and finding only a handful of books to look at. I started sobbing, I missed my books.

Of course, the pile I had left with my friend was mostly of unread books, but I missed their existence. While leaving them, I constantly had a question popping in my head – what’s the soul of a home without books? I felt sad.

When our town opened up here last month, the first thing I did was check out the bookstores. It felt so good to see them because kindle wasn’t helping me. Finally, the libraries here opened up a few days ago and I registered. Within a day, I was asked to pick up my membership card. The libraries here are free which is so wonderful! I rushed there, got my card and was free to browse this library that aptly resides in an old brick building. I didn’t know which room to get in, equipped with access to all the books that now stood at my disposal.

I saw a woman shelving some books and moved towards that room. She was kind and asked me if I needed help. Literally while replying to her, I saw my eyes focussed on a shelf that stood behind her – it was Urdu. I told her I see those and how happy I am, without realising that my eyes welled up. A strange feeling of relief, comfort and surprise engulfed me. I realised how many books I had bought of Urdu back in Pune, to get better at it. And what I was missing was those books, because the lockdown is exactly the time when they would’ve kept me busy. But here I was, standing in front of a shelf stuffed with Urdu books. Fewer books, but at least they were there.

Sometimes, you don’t even know which strings of the heart books can pull. It feels a little bit more like home now. And that’s the story of this picture.

(Also, 2-minute silence for those who urged me not to ‘show off’ my Urdu skills in public especially in England.)

Of Libraries And Feelings

What is it in a library that makes one so happy that sometimes it is inexplicable? These two years in Nagpur made me reconnect to reading.Very few books for two years probably, but it was the only thing that made me stay at home – happily. Two weeks back I wanted to buy another book, and I sighed as I missed having a decent library in this city. When I googled for one that might be available, I almost jumped out of my seat when I saw the name ‘Just Books’! I checked their website to confirm whether it is the same one we had in Bangalore, and voila! My smile just grew broader!

Surprisingly, I never joined that library when in Bangalore because of work. Nagpur gave me a chance and I went to check it out the very next day! I walked as fast I could so that I could just be there, among those books which I could possibly own; at least partially. Being there I realised that this is only the second time that I was going to become a member of a library and how much it means to me right now – at this time. It might sound dramatic but I had tears in my eyes just to see all the books that I could get my hands on. I regretted the fact that for 2 years this city couldn’t come up with a library like this and now it suddenly appeared – to my delight! I enquired about the membership and left, determined to come back and become a member sooner.

This library is located in a quaint little locality. Strangely, being closer to a busy street yet being a quiet place, gives it another feel. The place is done up very well and is adoringly inviting. It’s a comparatively small one, yet has been given a nice look. They even have graffiti at the entrance!

The graffiti!
The graffiti!

When I became a member and was returning home with two books in my hand, I felt possessive of those books – in a good way. I held them close to my heart and realised how this whole idea calmed me, I’m not sure of what though. It just felt relaxing and…. happy! The anticipation of finishing these books and coming back to more, the excitement of being tech savy in the library’s own way, the membership card – all make me happy. In fact the excitement has made me finish one book already and am onto the other! I cannot wait to go back and browse through the books again. I keep imagining what I could possibly find on the shelf that I can pick up.

What is it that makes the walk to and from the library so memorable? Like everything else it’s a pretty routine chore. And for that matter, I am not even a voracious reader. But that memory from last week is still fresh in my head. The walk towards the library being fast and enthusiastic. The walk back being a feeling of calmness holding those two books in that strangely calming society. The flurry of feelings that shake up your heart in a good way. The possessive feeling towards those books.

The answer, for now, ┬álies in the very name of the library – just books.